In writing a long-running series it’s often difficult to find fresh stories to occupy characters and hold readers’ interest. But Haddam does just that with her Gregor Demarkian novels. This is the 28th installment, after last year’s Blood in the Water, and it’s anything but tired.
When wild, little rich girl Chapin Waring disappeared 30 years before with $250,000 from five bank robberies that resulted in the deaths of two guards, everyone thought she must be dead. Not a single bill from her ill-gotten wealth ever returned to circulation. But now Alwych, Connecticut, is abuzz with rumored Chapin sightings. It appears she is alive and well and has come home to the affluent beach town of McMansions and exclusive private schools.
And indeed she has returned—but not alive or well. She’s found dead in her family’s unoccupied house, a knife in her back. The town is sure her murder is somehow connected to the long-ago robberies or possibly the car crash shortly before her disappearance that killed Marty Veer, her accomplice and one of her tight-knit circle of six friends.
The police are stumped and call in retired FBI profiler Gregor Demarkian. When he arrives in Alwych, he finds suspects galore. Chapin was not well-liked, and not just because she robbed banks. The “it” girl those many years ago of Alwych Country Day School manipulated everyone and had a wild, dangerous streak. Of her inner circle, only four remain alive, and Gregor takes a close look at each: Virginia, a US Congresswoman; Virginia’s twin brother Tim, a saintly idealist who runs a free clinic; Hope, a teacher who is penniless and weighs almost 500 pounds; and Kyle, an anomaly—an honest Wall Street attorney. Spreading his net even further, Gregor adds Evaline Veer to the list. She’s Alwych’s mayor and the sister of Marty, the boy killed in the car accident. And then there’s Chapin’s younger sister, Caroline, who’s the only relative still living in Alwych. She wants nothing to do with Chapin and refuses to accept her sister’s body or plan a funeral. When a second person is killed in the same manner, it eliminates one of Gregor’s suspects, but complicates his investigation even further.
Edgar- and Anthony-award finalist Haddam knows how to write a small town, particularly an old money town, with all its secrets and insular society. The ocean breeze and the smell of money fairly wafts from the page. Her characters are fully fleshed out. She knows them well, maybe too well, and sometimes neglects to reintroduce returning characters for readers new to the series. Her plotting skills shine through with intricate twists and turns. Readers can only hope Gregor Demarkian doesn’t decide to really retire permanently any time soon.